Monday, February 11, 2013

World Information Architecture Day - Cool Stuff

15 cities officially celebrated World Information Architecture (IA) Day on Saturday - possibly more than 15, but there were 15 official selected locations for WIAD 2013 around the globe. One of those sites was Los Angeles, sponsored by the User Experience Professionals Association of Los Angeles  (LA-UXPA) and I was there along with several hundred other people.

LA-UXPA did an amazing job. It was a high energy, well organized, event with an incredible amount of useful and thought-provoking information packed into a one full day of interdisciplinary speakers. You see, IA people hark from the arts, law, computing, psychology, design, sciences... I spoke to people from each of those fields. Disney was there (they sponsored  a tasty lunch among other things) along with a host of other generous sponsors. Every time you turned around your brain was being challenged to switch gears to look at things from another perspective. You gotta love this kind of event.

For example, one of the speakers, David Fiorito a self described computer geek, came out from Philadelphia to to talk about "thinking navigation". From his perspective, IA draws heavily on Linguistic Anthropology: recognizing the use of language as a common source of meaning among groups, drawing awareness to cultural meaning systems encoded in words (e.g. symbols) and utilizing ethnography to decode relationships between the symbols (words). To keep you on your toes, David also described IA in terms of ontology, taxonomy and choreography. That last item was a pleasant surprise; I had an immediate mental image of ballerina-like labels and categories (taxonomy) doing pirouettes among each other to tell a story (ontology).

A completely different sort of inspiration landed in my lap during Aaron Irizarry's opening presentation. Recently, I have been pondering how to address concerns in the computing education community about integrating sustainability into the undergraduate curriculum (the topic of my own presentation in a few weeks at SIGCSE 2013). Then Aaron launched into a discussion of tackling the MVP: Minimal Viable Problem.

As in: in an increasingly complex interconnected technology driven world, we will inevitably find ourselves in a room with peers who all want to "address it" but who don't even agree on what "it" is (IA, UX, Design...Sustainability). We struggle to arrive at a common understanding of terms, goals, expected common value of customer/user (student, faculty) experience. What is "it"? What is "its" value? How to respond to "we don't have the resources to do that"?

Is UX valuable? Is IA valuable? Is Sustainability in the Computing Curriculum valuable? Yes. Yes. Yes.

It doesn't matter if we are in industry or academia, if we are talking product development, service provision, or pedagogical content knowledge. So! went off the light bulb hovering over my head! When we are breaking new ground, we often slam into the same communication challenges. Aaron provided some nicely targeted insights into tackling this problem. Little does Aaron know, but he helped me a great deal with plotting and planning my presentation. Thanks Aaron!

There's more to tell about WIAD. I'm still hoarse from all the talking on Saturday. Stay tuned for Part 2!

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